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Now The World's Richest Woman Now Is A L'Oreal Heiress

Now The World's Richest Woman Now Is A L'Oreal Heiress
The spotlight on a reclusive 64-year-old heiress who now finds herself as the richest woman in the world, has now been put by the death this week of L’Oreal SA’s founding family matriarch.
The glittering social life that Liliane Bettencourt had once embraced has been shunned by her daughter Francoise Bettencourt Meyers. Bettencourt Meyers has written two books -- a five-volume study of the Bible and a genealogy of the Greek gods and is known for playing piano for several hours a day.
“She really lives inside her own cocoon,” said Tom Sancton, author of "The Bettencourt Affair," who noted that even when she was a little girl she appeared uncomfortable in the world of rich people. “She lives mainly with the confines of her own family.”
As the head of Europe’s fourth-largest fortune, that kind of seclusion will be harder to maintain.  She takes charge of her family’s 33 percent stake in the cosmetics maker through family holding company Tethys. That is the basis for a net worth the Bloomberg Billionaires Index values at $43.3 billion.
In addition to the 23 percent of L’Oreal held by Swiss food-giant Nestle SA., there is talk about the future of the family’s stake, and Bettencourt Meyers steps into the spotlight at such a time of increasing discussion.
Including L’Oreal buying stock back from Nestle or a takeover bid for the Paris-based company. Bettencourt Meyers has already indicated little will change, analysts have started to float a variety of scenarios with Bettencourt’s death Thursday at age 94.
 “In this painful moment for us, I would like to reiterate, on behalf of our family, our entire commitment and loyalty to L’Oreal and to renew my confidence in its President Jean-Paul Agon and his teams worldwide,” she said in a statement Thursday.
despite her role as a board member for more than two decades, the billionaire heiress has shown less interest in L’Oreal matters than her mother did. “She’d show up to meetings but unlike Liliane she never was hands-on,” Sancton said. “Liliane read tons of documents, L’Oreal was her lifeblood. That’s definitely not Francoise.”

The bookish and austere Bettencourt Meyers has involved herself in charity work in addition to music and study.
“The family doesn’t really mingle with rest of the rich in France,” said Eric Treguier, who has tracked French fortunes for Challenges magazine for more than two decades. "Twenty years ago they hosted receptions at their home that drew politicians, bankers and artists but as Francoise grew older and Liliane’s husband died, the circle around the family has shrunk.”
As L’Oreal’s market capitalization topped 100 billion euros ($122 billion), the Bettencourts have added 19.6 percent this year.
Her $43.3 billion net worth puts her at the top of the list of 64 women featured on the Bloomberg index, a daily ranking of the world’s 500 richest people and $5.4 billion ahead of Alice Walton, an heiress to the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. fortune. 58 of the 64 billionaires are stewards of an inheritance.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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